Making the Case for a Case Study

Many companies today are turning to behavioral based interviewing, also called behavior description interviewing, or BDI. In this kind of interviewing, questions generally require the candidate to describe a situation they have faced personally and interviewers focus on their specific response to these cases. A typical BDI question could be something like, “Tell us about a time when you disagreed with your boss. What did you do?” The general idea and goal behind this type of interviewing is that those doing the hiring might be able to predict how a candidate would respond to situations they might face in the future, should they be asked to join the company. If you’re interested in a more in-depth look at this kind of interviewing, you can check out my previous post here.

While this sort of interviewing can prove useful in certain hiring situations, the issue often faced is that the answers received are based on the candidate’s singular recall of the events which took place. Namely, with no one to corroborate or disagree with the story, it is difficult at times to tell if the candidate is truthfully representing the situation or their actions in that situation.

Hiring managers and a hiring committee can attempt to avoid this by using a case study. This usually consists of a predetermined, hypothetical situation that is relevant to the position being applied for. The situation is laid in front of the candidate and they are asked to respond to it as they see fit.

Writing for The Chronicle of Higher Education, John R. Lubker says this method of interviewing was used successfully to hire a new dean for the university where he was previously holding the interim dean position. Their case study involved the head of a department who was eligible for the status of full professor and denied the promotion. The candidates were given time to become familiar with the case and then asked to respond to the issues that arose. In Lubker’s view, “the case-study approach provides a behavioral “window” through which to view your potential hire in action. Like any assessment, it should not be used alone but it can contribute greatly to the success of your search.”

This method of interviewing can be adapted to just about any job interview within any industry. It can be more time-consuming for both the candidate and the interviewers, as well. But coupled with a few behavioral based questions, it can help to create a more complete picture of how a candidate has performed in the past and how they may perform in the future.

Do you use case studies in your interviewing process? Tell us about it in the comments.

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